I have a problem. Well, let’s be honest, I have a few. My current struggle in the last few days has been surrounding the Facebook profile picture filters for both Paris, and more recently, Brussels.
I have been to both places. I have been to Paris several times and it is a beautiful city. When I’m there, I can see history unfolding before my eyes. I hear Enjolras call his peers to arms. I hear Javert cry out in frustration. I hear Christine crying in the arms of Raul, terrified for her life; and yes, I see real documented history too.
Brussels is also a phenomenal city, filled with life and flowers and laughter and amazing beer.
My point in recounting my travels is simply to state that I have been to these cities, thoroughly enjoyed my time there, and have great respect for the people there.
My problem with these Facebook profile pictures is two fold.
First and foremost, as has been stated multiple times by many people before me, these filters have only shown up for Paris and Belgium…two Western European countries. Not once has a filter shown up for Nigeria and the Boko Haram attacks. No filter showed up for Pakistan and the recent Easter attacks. Why? Because they are black and brown? Because they are developing countries? Why don’t “we” (as Westerners) relate or feel the need to “pray” for these people? What makes them unworthy of the outcry of support from social media? Or rather, why does the outpour of support only come for Western/developed tragedies?
My second issue with these filters is simply this, why? Do the people who use these filters change anything about the way they live their lives due to their use? Do they study and learn and try to make the world a better place? Do they read articles and try to better understand some of the racial and religious tensions happening in the world? Or do they immediately turn on a filter and say, “Well, I made enough of a difference today. Time to immediately pretend nothing has happened”. I don’t understand these filters. I’m terrified by the things that have happened in Paris, and Brussels and Lahor and all over Nigeria but instead of putting up a filter and hitting play on my most recent Parks and Rec binge, I read any article I can find to help me make sense of what is happening. I reach out on every form of travel social media I participate in and open up my home to potentially stranded travelers. I reach out to my many friends and family who live abroad and make sure they are ok and if they are stranded I try to hook them up with people I may know where they are. I do try to reach out and let these communities know that they are not alone. But I also celebrate their resilience. They don’t need our prayers. They need us to have our eyes wide open. To change the way we interact as humans. To celebrate the life and vibrance of these cities. To be unafraid to continue to travel and expand our minds and our views of the world.
Is my method perfect? Clearly far from it, as am I. I just feel like these colorful little lines across our Facebook faces will do very little but make those of us who use them superficially feel like we’ve made a difference. I choose to try and do more, to do better, to learn and continue to grow and to admit to my fears, anxieties and mistakes.
EDIT (July 5th, 2016)
Several days ago there was a bombing in Turkey that left 45 dead. A few days later, there was a suicide bombing in Bangladesh that left 21 dead. I did not see a SINGLE flag overlay for these countries and these people. Why? Because they are people of color? Because we have a perception that a lot of them are Muslim? Because it is a poorer country? Because we think “Well they should be used to it. It happens to them all the time.” Why? THIS is one of the major reasons why these stupid Facebook filters are stupid. They only happen when it’s white, Western Europeans. Apparently Facebook, and the rest of us (for where was the outcry on social media that these two events weren’t honored?), don’t care about anyone but the white, western world. And that is a travesty.